The following article was written by J.L. Avey as an entry to the Alien August competition.
Description: Discovered in A.L. 7320, the Ambulaflora are a species of intelligent, transient plants native to the planet that name translates ‘Dirt’. They are a slow-moving species that does nothing fast, thinking included. Their technological advance was sluggish by human standards as their civilization first rose tens of thousands of years ahead of humanity. It did not reach rapid advancement until the information revolution when ambulaflora-built AIs began operating their society.
Their earliest ancestors were very much like the carniferns of Earth. They originated in a part of their world that was, at the time, mineral poor. In order to extract nutrients from their surroundings they turned towards the numerous insects overrunning their world. By the time genus ambulaflora appeared, they developed a rudimentary form of animal husbandry not only to protect pollinators but to secure a supply of nutrients.
Body: They stand one meter in height and superficially resemble stunted palm trees with green trunks. Overall their central structure is bowl shaped, built around a digestion chamber. Rising from the chamber is a stalk half as wide as the body that houses the central nervous system and is topped with six eye stalks. The body sits atop a secondary body from which the legs sprout.
Limbs: Their radial structure gives them six trunk-like limbs that serve as roots during the seedling stage. These slow-moving limbs propel ambulaflora to speeds reaching one hundred meters and hour. For arms, they have six branch-like limbs ascending from their core. These branches not only hold their flowers but are tipped with sticky tendrils that grab passing insects. These arms are surprisingly fast, quicker even than the closing leaves of a venus flytrap. Though not as dexterous or quick as human hands they are more than able to manipulate the ambulaflora’s surroundings.
Color: Overall their bodies are a light green with trunk-like limbs that range from the same green to a light brown. A variety of subspecies, or ‘breeds’ of Ambulaflora exist and are told apart from the color of their flowers which is as varied as fuchsias, roses and other flowering plants on Earth.
Diet: Being plants, they generate sugar and oxygen from carbon dioxide, water and sunlight. Unlike most known plants, they have lost the ability to take root. Thus in order to bring water and nutrients into their bodies, they have to take it into their digestion chamber.
Lifecycle: They require flying insects in order to pollinate each others’ flowers. They tend to use their world’s bee-equivalent as a primary mode of pollination. A symbioses developed between walking plant and flying animal where the ambulaflora protect them from predators and enemies (mostly by consuming them as nutrients) while the bees enable ambulaflora to spread beyond their native range.
When the seeds are ready to sow, ambulaflora move to a communal garden and plant their offspring. Their civilization first arose by the need to not only defend their gardens but to provide reliable supply of water for their offspring. It is one of the few traits ambulaflora and humanity share in common. Both of our civilizations have their roots in diverting water when it runs in excess into storage areas for when it is in short supply.
For the first two years of their lives, they remain rooted in place, depending on gardeners to water them, weed the nursery of unwanted plants and keep destructive insects at bay. Between two and three years of age they metamorphose into mobile plants, developing not only their new legs but also their nervous systems.
Communication: They communicate through pheromones primarily with a capacity for visual communication. They lack any ability to detect sound short of vibrations through the ground. Even those are nothing more than vibrations to these plants. Their scent-based communication gives them the ability to operate as individual or as colonies. The way they transmit and receive pheromones is similar to the way parts of the brain send and receive neurons. In a colony, hundreds or even thousands of ambulaflora operate as a true collective consciousness.
Society: Ambulaflora are a very inquisitive species. Whenever they discover something new, they test it out one everything. Case in point came with their discovery of metal-working. They were quick to apply heat to all types of rocks. That is about the only thing quick concerning the species. Their slow reflexes made sailing difficult and manned (planted?) flight impossible. They developed rocketry before they developed flight. Only with the advent of the AI did they master these skills. Virtually every device on their planet has some degree of artificial intelligence. They allow their machines a level of autonomy no sane human would dare match.
First contact with the ambulaflora involved their AI so heavily that it was assumed their planet was home to a machine civilization, remnants of a long forgotten civilization. All human explorers found in the cities were many small buildings lacking roofs. Even when walking plants were discovered inhabiting the cities and moving about in a purposeful pattern, they were still dismissed. It was not until one colony of ambulaflora approached the humans and began scanning their environmental suits that the explorers paid more attention to the planet’s flora.
Article and artwork by J.L. Avey.